Porsche knows how to make one hell of a car, right?
The 911 GT3 has to be considered one of the all-time best drivers’ cars, surely. In fact, I don’t think there are many, if any, cars in production today better suited to doing high-performance, consistently fast mileage as a GT3.
That’s why when Charles Wong went looking for a car to use on track that would also allow him to do some serious road-tripping with ease, the Porsche dealership was his first port of call. But here’s the catch: You can’t just go into a Porsche dealership, pull out a couple hundred thousand dollars (or a debit card most likely, who even still buys new cars with cash?) and order a GT3.
Porsche reserves the sale of their GT and limited edition cars for existing customers, so Charles’ only choices were: A) buy any existing Porsche and trade it in for a GT3, losing money in the process, or B) walk away and buy something else. Well, Charles decided that if he couldn’t buy his perfect track car, he was going to build it.
A Nissan fan since he could drive, with an S13 as a first car and various R32s and R33s along the way, Charles was pretty certain that a BNR34 Skyline GT-R was the way forward for him. He picked up a pre-modified example from Japan and had some fun with it, but truth be told, that car only lasted him about half a year before it gave up the ghost.
In those six months though, Charles became committed to the GT-R as a base and replaced it with the Bayside Blue example you see here.
Again, the car was bought pre-modified. An HKS-built RB26 provided around 500whp thanks to an HKS T04Z turbo and forged internals. It would do for the time being, but immediately the search was on for a shop that could keep the car performing reliably. Enter Hayashi-san and Garage Saurus.
If you, like me, fantasise about racing on the Tokyo expressway at midnight in the ’90s or early 2000s, or have even a remote interest in the golden era of Japanese tuning, then the name Garage Saurus should be familiar to you.
If not, here’s a quick summary. Back when the drag racing scene was still big in Japan, Garage Saurus was one of the major players. The title of fastest GT-R on the quarter mile was hotly contested by almost all the JDM tuners now known worldwide, such as HKS, Veilside and A’PEXi.
When the drag scene started to subside a little in Japan, only a handful of local shops remained dedicated to big power, straight line builds. Tuners such as Avance, for example.
Garage Saurus had decided in the 2000s that it wanted to branch out its expertise, and started to focus on more rounded builds, and this led to the continued demand for Hayashi-san’s development of the RB26. Eleven years ago, Dino did this awesome feature on a ‘transition car’.
It just so happened that around the time Charles was looking for a garage to entrust with the maintenance of his GT-R, the Garage Saurus team was looking to set up shop in Canada. The timing couldn’t have been better really.
Unlike their heyday builds on which Garage Saurus built their reputation, Charles had no intention to turn his car into a drag strip monster. He simply wanted to avoid a repeat of his first R34 and make sure that this one would last.
Whilst undergoing a load of maintenance work, Hayashi-san himself flew out to tune the car personally, ensuring that it would perform as well as possible on Canadian fuel and really making the most out of the existing engine work.
Quite simply, and rather refreshingly, Charles chose to enjoy the Skyline as he had bought it for a year. That gave him the time to really get to know the R34, and gain confidence in both the car and his ability with it.
Everyone gets that itch to do something more after a while, and that moment came after Charles took the GT-R on a track day at Laguna Seca. The man drove his Skyline all the down the western coast from Vancouver to California just to hurl the GT-R down the Corkscrew. What a dude.
That sort of dedication kind of sets the tone for the rest of the story.
Charles had simply become used to the Skyline and the thrill had worn off. It was clear the car had to be faster.
He decided to have a cylinder head built in Canada with a BorgWarner EFR 9180 to up the power, but it wasn’t going to be paired with the existing HKS-built block.
Having anticipated more power in the future, work had already begun getting a bottom end built to take it. Hayashi-san wanted an environment he was comfortable in to undertake the new build, so it was decided that he would source a brand new engine block directly from Nissan to the Garage Saurus workshop.
The biggest difference in power potential would come from an HKS Step 1 2.8L stroker kit, allowing for near on 800 horsepower at the wheels of the Skyline. The block was then built with Tomei main studs, main bearings and rod bearings to cope with the extra power the EFR 9180 turbo would generate. Garage Saurus tensioners, a Trust extended oil pan and a 220A alternator all ensured that the engine would be able to reliably reach the high power figures Charles had in mind.
Once complete, Hayashi-san flew back to Canada with the short block in tow to personally complete the rebuild and install. The new block was mated with the locally assembled head, but it didn’t end there.
In order to maximise the new engine’s potential, Charles had opted for an OS Giken OS-88 6-speed sequential gearbox to guarantee rapid shifts on track.
As much as I’d love to say that that’s where the story ends and Charles drove his R34 around happily forever after, it isn’t.
The Skyline simply wasn’t performing right soon after the rebuild and the problem was traced back to the cylinder head. A major leak was not only compromising performance but was also, quite simply, a huge pain in the arse after all the work that had gone into getting the engine to the level it was at.
Not one to give up though, work had to go on. But rather than the headache of stripping the car in Canada, having parts built both locally and abroad and flying Hayashi-san all over the world like a madman hell-bent on acquiring air miles, why not just ship the entire car to Japan?
Surprisingly, the cost was similar enough to just sending the engine and Hayashi-san there and back, plus it would allow Charles the chance to plan the holiday of a lifetime.
A plan was put in motion and all the arrangements were made. Charles and Hayashi-san were on a mission: To prove that with the right work, the RB26 can push absurd power figures and clock big mileage reliably, with zero faults. *Laughs in Mark Riccioni*
Charles arrived in Japan a few days before the Skyline to get settled and begin the process of re-registering the car. The GT-R had come home, and in doing so had done more mileage over the sea than over the past few months on land.
A brand new cylinder head was sourced from Nissan, replacing the Canada-sourced item which Charles had sent back to the shop that built it. As such, the car now had a complete new bare engine sourced from Nissan directly.
The head and ancillaries were either reworked or replaced with pretty much the entire HKS RB26 tuning catalog, including Drag head gasket, Step 2 V-CAM, valve springs, oil pump, timing belt and exhaust-side timing gear. Tomei studs were used to keep the top and bottom ends firmly together.
The Garage Saurus high-flow head kit allows the turbo to spool up with relative ease to maintain responsiveness and minimise lag, in addition to the obvious inlet and exhaust port polishing you’d expect. What’s the point of all the boost if it takes too long to kick in, after all?
I’ll include a full spec list at the end for those of you who’d like to know all the details, but the reason why I’ve focussed solely on the engine is that it’s what drives this story (no pun intended).
As I mentioned earlier, Charles’ reasoning behind shipping the Skyline back to Japan was two-fold. Not only did he want all the engine work to be undertaken by the Garage Saurus team, but he’d decided that it would be the prime opportunity to pursue a long-time dream.
Instead of shipping the car back to Canada when the rebuild was complete, Charles had decided to go on a tour of the country with his Skyline, hitting as many track days as he could along the way. Think of it as an extended run-in period, if you will.
Twelve thousand kilometres were clocked up in the year after the rebuild, including laps of Fuji Speedway and Tsukuba. There was even a 6,000km road trip to Hokkaido. Charles was getting his fill of Japan with as much seat time in the GT-R as he could.
It was around this time that it had hit him, he says – he’d finally managed to build his dream car. As much as I detest the cliché, this R34 really is the gamer kid’s dream turned reality, taken further by being raced around the very tracks in real life that Charles used to play on in the digital world when he was young.
Looking back in hindsight, Charles is glad that Porsche wouldn’t sell him a GT3, and aside from swapping the OS Giken sequential gearbox to a Samsonas unit he hasn’t felt the need to change anything on the car since he had it flown back to Canada.
All Charles wants to do now is rag the Skyline on track once lockdown is lifted, and add to the collection of stone chips on the nose and road-rash on the RAYS Volk Racing TE37s.
Oh, and what about Hayashi-san’s goal to prove the reliability of the RB26 in the right hands? It’s not broken down once since the rebuild. Job done.
Charles Wong’s BNR34 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Nissan RB26 built by Garage Saurus , HKS 2.8 Step 1 stroker kit , HKS Drag head gasket , HKS V-CAM Step 2 kit, HKS 272-degree exhaust cam with adjustable gear, HKS valve springs, HKS oil pump , HKS timing belt, Tomei head studs , Tomei main studs , Tomei rod bearings, Tomei main bearings , Garage Saurus Hi-Response head kit , Garage Saurus power steering tensioner & 220a alternator conversion , Trust oil pan extension, Garage Saurus exhaust manifold , Garage Saurus SPL down pipe, Garage Saurus SPL intercooler pipe s, Garage Saurus intake pipe , Blitz air filter, TiAL 60mm wastegate , BorgWarner EFR 9180 turbocharger , Spectrum Motorsports turbo line kit, Nismo intake plenum , Tomei titanium cat delete , Tomei titanium exhaust, Tabata radiator , HKS GT intercooler , HKS GT oil cooler , Samco radiator hose , Samco heater hose , ATTKD oil catch can , ID1300 injectors , Tomei fuel pressure regulator, 2x Nismo fuel pumps, Sard 5L surge tank , custom hard lines, HKS fuel rails , HKS F-CON V Pro 3.4 tuned by Garage Saurus, HKS EVC6 boost controller
Samsonas 6-speed sequential gearbox , Garage Saurus reinforced transfer case , Garage Saurus SPL ORC 1000F triple-plate clutch , Garage Saurus carbon fiber drivershaft , Garage Saurus SPL transmission crossmember, Tilton centric slave cylinder, 4.1 front diff conversion , 4.1 mechanical diff conversion with ALSD delete
Garage Saurus REX Circuit Version coilover kit 12k front/10k rear , Cusco front upper control arms, Cusco HICAS delete , Ikeya Formula front tension rod s, Ikeya Formula rear upper arms , Ikeya Formula rear traction rods , Ikeya Formula rear lower arm s, Nismo front lower arm s, Nismo front sway bar , Nismo rear sway bar , Kansai front lower bar, Kansai subframe reinforcement bar , Carbing strut tower bar, R35 GT-R calipers, DBA front and rear slotted rotors , CW Collective brake conversion adaptors
RAYS Volk Racing TE37SL 18×11-inch +18 wheels, 5mm spacers (front), 15mm spacers (rear) , Yokohama Advan AD08R 295/30R18 tires (street), Yokohama Advan A050 295/35R18 (circuit)
Auto Select carbon fiber hood , Auto Select carbon fiber canards, Nismo Z-tune bumper, Carshop F1 carbon fiber front splitter , Garage Kagotani front fenders, Garage Kagotani carbon fiber lower louver s, Garage Kagotani side skirts, Hasemi Motorsport rear spats , CW Collective carbon fiber rear diffuser , CW Collection carbon fiber wing stands, Voltex Type 4 GT wing, carbon fiber rear bumper cover , Nismo clear corner , Nismo tail light s
CW Collective 5-point half cage with harness bar, Recaro carbon-Kevlar SPA seat, Willans harness, Personal Grita 350mm steering wheel , Works Bell steering quick tilt hub , BNR34 GT-R V-spec 2 interior trim, Alpine ILX007 head unit, Nismo cluster